With MLB’s draft pick signing deadline set for 5:00 today, there are obviously several high holdouts that have yet to ink deals. In total, in the first two rounds, competitive balance picks included, there are 7 picks who remain unsigned. Considering the measures taken to limit bonus pool money, the fact that only three first round picks are unsigned indicates that something clearly is working here. Whats even more surprising is the fact that there are no high school first round picks who haven’t signed. But I digress.
This article will focus on the remaining unsigned first and competitive balance round picks in the draft. There are four of them. Without further delay, here they are.
1. Dansby Swanson, SS, Diamondbacks.
The first overall pick becomes the second straight pick to hold off signing at the deadline. But unlike Brady Aiken last season, whose UCL wiped out any chance of him receiving a top level bonus, Swanson is perfectly healthy, and has no incentive to return to school.
Why he will sign:
As the first overall pick, Swanson is perfectly capable of commanding the $8,616,900 recommended bonus that is the league recommendation. The Diamondbacks have a large enough pool to afford the deal, and considering the fact that all but one of their first 10 picks signed for at-slot deals, and their only other remaining major commitment is 12th rounder Wesley Rodriguez, it seems that the best way to say it is that all that needs to be done is figure out how much money they want to commit to him.
As of now, the top bonus in the draft belongs to #2 pick Alex Bregman, who topped out with $5.9 million. If all goes well in Swanson’s camp, and given the fact that the negotiations between them and the D-Backs camp have been more about evaluating his market, I could see Arizona following their trend and signing him at slot. Should Rodriguez who may elect to recover from Tommy John surgery in college choose not to sign, the D-Backs could afford to sweeten the pot by offering him even more. However, the verdict is this. Swanson will sign, and based on the positive lines of communication, he’ll be rewarded handsomely.
24. Walker Buehler, RHP, Dodgers
The first of two remaining unsigned Dodgers, Buehler was a solid starter and piece of the 2014 NCAA champions and 2015 NCAA runners up. Buehler at one point was considered the best of the three Vanderbilt products taken in the first round, but slipped all the way to the 24th pick.
Why he will sign.
This one comes down to two major factors: Who do the Dodgers want to commit their remaining pool money to, and how much can they afford to? In addition to Buehler, the Dodgers do have another first round pick and a 6th rounder who have yet to sign, but the chances that they sign all three are incredibly slim. Buehler had a decent season this year, even if he had to take a 2 and a half week break to rest during the season.
The Dodgers ideally would want to sign Buehler because he would further add to the arsenal of future arms set to take over the Dodger rotation in the coming years. Given that Buehler is a college pitcher, there would be a chance for him to come up as early as late 2016 or early 2017.
Buehler would be the Dodgers’ best chance to sign, and if it means that they have to commit what remaining bonus money under the 5% threshold they have to sign him, then they should, and should let go of their remaining picks.
35, Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Dodgers
Kyle Funkhouser at one point in the draft was considered the top righthanded pitching prospect in the draft, but a down junior season dropped his stock, and he tumbled all the way down to the 35th pick.
Why he won’t sign:
The way I look at this, Kyle Funkhouser has leverage that former potential top pick Michael Matuella didn’t have. A bad junior season? Fine, go back to school, see if you can rebound, and hope to enter next year’s top pick conversation. Matuella didn’t have that same leverage because of his Tommy John surgery and back issues, which would have prevented him from pitching at all in his senior year.
Funkhouser knows that he’s worth more that whatever the Dodgers can offer him, and given the fact that they spent their top picks on college pitchers, he likely views himself as the odd man out.
Admittedly, the risks of returning to school for a senior season are big. What if Funkhouser doesn’t improve? What if he’s only able to slightly raise his stock from last season? Since compensation for losing a first round draft pick began, only one player who didn’t sign was a collegian, and that was Stanford’s Mark Appel in 2012. Granted, Appel was able to move from being selected by the Pirates at 8th overall to the Astros at first overall, but his decision to return doesn’t indicate a trend.
The only way I see Funkhouser choose to sign is if the Dodgers elect to not sign Edwin Rios, their sixth rounder. If they do that, they could try and split the remaining threshold bonus pool money they have in the hopes of getting both Buehler and Funkhouser. Knowing full well that the Dodgers don’t want to be the first team to lose a draft pick for exceeding their pool, the chances of that happening are pretty slim. In all likelihood, it will come down choosing between Buehler and Funkhouser, and signs indicate Buehler is their first choice.
40. Nathan Kirby, LHP: Brewers
Nathan Kirby was a preseason favorite to be a top pick in the draft, but an ineffective junior season towards the end dropped his stock and pushed him to the CB round, where the Brewers snatched him.
Why he will sign:
An article on the Daily Progress’ UVA sports blog indicates that Kirby has decided to wait until just before the deadline to sign. For Kirby, going pro would be the best decision. The Cavaliers will be fine without him, especially with the emergence of Connor Jones as a staff ace. Plus, as a UVA product, Kirby has a chance to go through the minor league system quickly. The Brewers could use the remainder of the minor league season to shut down Kirby and wait until next season, when he will be fully healthy and ready to go.
Considering the Brewers have made no effort to sign their gamble picks, Justin Hooper, Donny Everett and John India, they could definitely allocate the money they have left towards a higher bonus for Kirby.
Here is part 2 of the 2015 Pitchers and Catchers MLB Mock Draft.
*Note: Apologies for mixing up the draft order, you can find Boston’s selection in the previous article.
8. Chicago White Sox
We’ve all seen it happen, a promising young player is beset by injuries and falls in the draft. It’s a common story when it comes to baseball, in fact, some of these injured prospects fall out of the top ten rounds entirely, like Jordan Sheffield. Now, granted, Sheffield was a prep arm, but in college, falling out of the first round due to injury, especially if you’re a pitcher indicates either a lack of confidence that a player will recover.
Of course, if you’re Duke pitcher Michael Matuella, that may not be an issue at all. Matuella, who has been dealing with back problems since entering college, showed in his season debut that he has the potential to be a high pick, still. Tossing six innings of shutout ball, with eight strikeouts and four hits allowed, he is making a solid case to go higher, if only he was in a weaker college pitching class.
Matuella’s height, fastball (arguably the best of his class) and secondary pitches make him an imposing force in the ACC, and his overpowering delivery only solidifies how much pro potential he has.
Chicago has become an example of pitching gone right, having made Chris Sale into an ace and bringing Carlos Rodon into their immediate plans. Adding a right-hander like Matuella will make this rotation even scarier.
9. Chicago Cubs
It seems as if the Chicago Cubs are ready to end 100+ years of suffering this season and make the World Series for the first time since World War II ended. They have enough young and controllable hitting that can last them until the beginning of the 2020s, and their rotation is anchored by a proven winner in Jon Lester. But, in order to sustain this hypothetical success, the Cubs may need to build up their future rotation, and there may be no better way than to pick up a proven winner.
It’s an arms race between Vanderbilt’s Walker Buehler and Carson Fulmer, but Buehler, despite not having the desirable build, compensates by being a more complete hurler. With a four pitch arsenal, solid command, and, the ability to stay a starter, not to mention the strong collegiate pitching class, Buehler could theoretically fall into Chicago’s lap.
Even though the last first round pitcher the Cubs drafted failed to gain any traction in the system, the fact that there is so much potential in this class, coupled by an impressive amount of depth in the positional prospects practically ensures that the Cubs try again, hopefully with different results.
10. Philadelphia Phillies
Philadelphia’s reputation as a wasteland for prospects is largely due to the dark period between 2004 and 2012, when the Phillies drafted prep players that amounted to little to no success. Of course, lately, that reputation, while still present, is starting to show some cracks, as players like Jesse Biddle, JP Crawford, and Aaron Nola are making major cases to be successful additions. to a future Phillies team. However, in the case of Philadelphia’s latest rebuild, more must be done in order to ensure future success, and that rebuild starts in the middle of the infield.
I had previously mocked LSU’s Alex Bregman here because of the Nola factor, but the emergence of Vanderbilt’s Dansby Swanson as a viable future second baseman, coupled with the hypothetical chance that he would be available here has me feeling that the Phillies would definitely consider taking him over Bregman.
Unlike Bregman, Swanson was a second baseman entering college, and has only become a shortstop because of necessity, and granted, while he’s done an adequate job filling the position, in all likelihood, when he does go pro, he’ll have better prospects as a second baseman.
The idea of having Swanson and JP Crawford forming the future of the Phillies’ middle infield is a very appealing one. Swanson, on the offensive side of the ball, would take Rollins’ role, a viable leadoff hitter with some pop, the ability to hit to the gaps, and the speed to stretch singles into doubles.
11. Cincinnati Reds
Brandon Phillips is a mercurial asset for the Reds. For the past nine seasons, he’s gone from being one of the best at his position to being both an injury risk and a major headache. However long he has left, the Reds at least should do themselves the favor of starting to look towards his future replacement. While I would love to see them go local and grab Ian Happ, the idea is that Happ will likely pull a Craig Biggio and become an outfielder in the future.
In this case, LSU shortstop Alex Bregman may be the best fit. While he plays a passable shortstop in college, his intangibles will almost assure him a spot at second in pro ball. Bregman, like Phillips, is a solid offensive producer, capable of filling at least the 5 hole, and the 3 hole at best.
Bregman is characterized as a hard worker, and while he did have a down sophomore year that many collegians would strive for, expect him to work harder this year and make a case for a top five pick. It’ll be interesting to see how he plays his junior season, as he could potentially raise his stock to pre 2014 levels, when he was considered a near lock for the number 1 pick.
12. Miami Marlins
Although the Marlins have a good pitching staff now, it’s entirely possible that they’ll want one at the level of their NL East bretheren, and whether it’s best asset is bought (Nationals) or developed (Mets), the best time to get that missing piece would probably be right now. Imagine a staff led by Jose Fernandez, with two big flamethrowers offering protection behind him.
Following their selection of Tyler Kolek who possessed the best prep fastball in the 2014 draft, the Marlins would have a world of opportunity here to grab what is likely the fastest pitcher in this year’s draft: De La Salle’s Justin Hooper. Like Kolek, Hooper is a tall pitcher, but unlike him, he’s not fully developed, as scouts feel that he could bulk up and add more speed to a high 90’s fastball that’s considered one of the best in his class.
Hooper is incredibly raw, however, as his curveball, changeup, and control all need retooling, and as of now, he figures to be a professional bullpen arm. However, his current attributes and the potential for development as he fills out could help him become a solid middle of the rotation pitcher.
13. Tampa Bay Rays
When it comes to the draft, the Rays are one of the best teams. Having turned Evan Longoria into a franchise face, David Price into arguably the best pitcher in team history, and being able to somehow resurrect the careers of Tim Beckham and Justin O’Connor, the Rays deserve some credit for what they have done. Of course, changeover is inevitable, and with Price and Hellickson gone, it’s likely the Rays will want to develop another staff ace.
Though small for a pitcher, Carson Fulmer of Vanderbilt is not to be taken lightly. Blessed with a very lively arm, Fulmer is able to throw mid 90’s fastballs and breaking balls that keep hitters off balance. While his control is in need of tuning, his mound presence is definitely intimidating.
A winner at the college level, both for Vanderbilt and Team USA, Fulmer would fit right in with the Rays pitching staff, though the question is, where? The height stigma that still exists in scouting suggests that he’ll be an adequate bullpen arm, although history has shown as of late that height doesn’t matter, given Marcus Stroman’s successful first season as a Jays pitcher. It’ll be interesting to see what course Fulmer takes once drafted.
14. Atlanta Braves
Every team is due for a rebuild, and the Braves are no exception. Swapping out established stars like Jason Heyward, Justin Upton and Evan Gattis is every indication that the Braves know that it’s time to cash in and restart the process. Now granted, they did receive a solid haul for their trouble, but none of those pieces included a bona fide outfield prospect, a position that likely will give the Braves trouble in the future.
Understandably, this is one of the weaker classes for positional talent, but the players there do have unique potential. Cincinnati’s Ian Happ is one of these products, an AAC star who has flashed that potential in two tours of summer ball. Happ has positional versatility, while he is likely going to play outfield professionally, he has a history of playing second base as well.
Happ may not be your typical power hitter, but he does have the ability to hit for power, albeit not in a full time capacity. His speed also allows him to be a contributor in the top of the order as well, and he provides value as a switch hitter.